Hot Panda

"Compared to -40 Celsius and wearing furs so you don’t die, [Vancouver’s] so nice."

Illustration by Tyler Crich
Illustration by Tyler Crich

09 Mindlessnesslessness

Have you ever heard of a band selling their own brand of hot sauce? Well Hot Panda is one of them, joining the likes of Paul Newman with their custom, gourmet hot sauce. Running seven dollars a bottle, it is appropriately named Volcano…Bloody Volcano after the band’s debut album. [ed. I heard they might have changed the flavour, but if you can get your hands on the original pineapple hot sauce they made, it was excellent with a nice smokey spice to it.] The Edmonton natives are now in the midst of promoting their sophomore record How Come I’m Dead? I sat down with three out of the four members (Heath Parsons was taking a power nap backstage) before their show at the Biltmore on Sept. 16 to discuss the band’s lineup change that introduces Catherine Hiltz as their new bass player, the recording process and their love for Vancouver food.

Discorder: Looking at your website I noticed you guys have a “Foodie” section for all the major Canadian cities. Are there any additions you’d like to make to the Vancouver section?

Maghan Campbell: What’s that place called? That tiny place by Foundation and it’s long and skinny?

D: Oh, Narrow Lounge!

MC: Yes, that place!

Catherine Hiltz: I love the Eatery. And Foundation. We always end up at Foundation.

Chris Connelly: They have the best nachos.

MC: Legendary Noodle is ridiculous. And I love the Reef. I’m not sure if I wrote that one on there. The best thing about Vancouver is eating. There’s also that café close to where we recorded that has the sandwiches.

CC: Finch’s, that was a new place we went to.

D: Looking at the past couple of years you guys have opened for the Von Bondies in Europe and played the same stage as the Beatles in Hamburg. Is there a moment that sticks out for you where you thought, “Wow, this is really happening”?

MC: That show in Hamburg was awesome because it was our first show in Europe and it was a crazy flight to get there, so we were all tired and jet-lagged. We only found out about that show two weeks before and we were already on tour. When we finally got on stage we started playing to a crowd that we’ve never played to and they were really into it, and I mean, the Beatles have played that stage! It was so exciting and really cool.

CC: We had to cancel some dates so we could go over to Europe so it was just this big whirlwind and she [Catherine] wasn’t even in the band then.

CH: For me, there was a show we played here for the Paralympics. We played that show, got to bed, woke up to go to the airport and fly to Toronto where we played Lee’s Palace, and then we flew back to Vancouver and started to drive to South by Southwest.

D: The band is very versatile in its sound in that it is difficult to classify it into one genre. Is that an effort on the band’s part?

CC: I don’t think it’s an effort but a result of our personalities. I think none of us like being classified as something so there’s that natural reaction that no matter what it is, like a compliment, my reaction is always to go “No, I’m not that!” But the thing is you don’t really want to be anything. I also think once you understand a band too much and get exactly what they’re doing, they kind of become boring or just predictable.

MC: When we jam, if something sounds good we’ll just run with it, even if it’s ridiculous and we’re laughing while we’re writing it.

D: You worked with JC/DC Studios [John Collins and David Carswell] for this album. Would you say your sound makes it easier to collaborate in the sense that you have no boundaries or more difficult because there is no structure?

MC: We had a really easy recording experience this time. It was fast and smooth, like compared to making our last record.

CC: I think if there is a structure it might make it hard for us because then the perfectionist in us would strive to do that “thing.” But because there isn’t necessarily anything that we’re trying to do, it makes what it is right. If we were trying too hard to do a type of thing then we would be chastising ourselves too much and thinking “Oh, we’re not doing it right.”

D: How did Chris’ mom feel about being on the cover of How Come I’m Dead?

MC: She was so happy!

CC: I chose the photo and ran it past her and she looked at it closely and said, “Okay, you can use it. I think I look good in this picture.” She has a copy of the record and always shows it to her friends like, “Look! It’s my son’s band!”

MC: She looks foxy.

CC: My foxy mom.

CH: She’s all over stickers and records now.

D: So the band is going to be making the move to Vancouver. What prompted that decision?

MC: I feel like for me it’s time to move on from Edmonton. I lived there almost my whole life and it’s just time. And every time we come here it’s just wonderful. Catherine’s mom and sister just moved here. So she’s moving anyways.

CH: My shit’s already here, so I basically live here.

CC: And our record label, Mint, is here. And the winters are pretty nice.

MC: Compared to -40 Celsius and wearing furs so you don’t die, it’s so nice.

D: Catherine, what was it like coming into the band and being “the new kid?” And what do you guys think she’s added to the band?

CH: It fit pretty well because I had been playing with them for a time, a couple years at least. I played trumpet with them.

MC: One of our first shows ever was actually with her old band, Storyboard. That’s how we met.

CH: It was a Halloween party in my basement.

CC: I feel like the band feels a lot like when we first started two years ago. There’s a sense of excitement and things are fun, and that kind of went away for a while. The band almost broke up. So she did a good job of keeping us together.

MC: If she didn’t join the band we probably wouldn’t be here.

CH: [laughing] I didn’t know any of this joining.

MC: It worked out really well. We’re writing songs and giggling, and our shows are so fun now. It’s just such positive energy. I’m actually excited to tour and play live. It’s really nice.